Pressure is cranking up on the Australian government to provide more than generic reassurance about the level of sanctions in place against Mugabe’s regime.
Specifically, the government is being asked when they will do something about the children of senior ministers of ruling party Zanu-PF living and studying in Australia, an issue that Crikey has reported on several occasions.
The cogs appear to be turning.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the Government was looking at blocking relatives from being educated in Australia, reported The Age on 15 May. “He said he had asked his department for a full report on how many Zimbabweans linked to the regime were in Australia.”
This came just after his meeting with the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, who’s an outspoken critic of Mugabe.
Two months earlier, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja had raised the issue with the government:
I also ask whether the minister is aware of a recommendation by the International Crisis Group, which actually suggests that members of families who are the subjects of those targeted sanctions applied by the EU or the US have their visas or their residency permits cancelled. Is the government aware of any Zimbabweans currently in Australia who fall into that category — that is, the children or relatives of people who are subject to those particular sanctions? If that is the case, what will the government do about considering or revoking those visas or permits?
Yesterday, Radio National’s Background Briefing had a thorough exploration of the issues, including correspondence with Reason Wafawarova, a post-graduate student in international relations at Sydney’s Macquarie University who is alleged to have continuing links with the ruling party, Zanu-PF (To hear the program in full, follow the links).
Although Wafawarova denies a major role within Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Youth, the Zimbabwe hansard shows “he had one of the most senior roles”, reports Wendy Carlisle, that of “Active Director of Training and Marketing”.
The Ministry of Youth trains the youth militia, a group that’s “been widely used in the past three months of violent repression as President Mugabe reacted to a new surge of discontent”, notes The Times.
In response to the program, Stott Despoja has upped the ante: “If there are children of senior regime figures studying here, this privilege should be rescinded immediately in line with the International Crisis Group recommendation.”